Sunday, 22 October 2017

Lieutenant Geoffrey Saxton White VC

Occasionally in my emails I receive thanks for some transcript entries made in recent years and published online at Kent Online Parish Clerks.
Recently enquiries were made and research undertaken in order to establish a memorial plaque to Lieutenant White as Victoria Cross recipient who was born in Bromley on 2 July 1886.
He was baptised at Saint Peter and Saint Paul Bromley Parish Church on 23 October 1886 son of William Henry White whose occupation is recorded as a Civil Servant and his wife Alice. The Baptismal entry in the transcript at Kent Online Parish Clerks website provided the crucial identification of the the family home needed to locate a commemorative plaque for a Victoria Cross recipient.
Although he is commemorated on Panel 28 Column 3 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial in Hampshire since he has no known grave the recognition of his Bromley birth will be significant.
His family did not reside long in Bromley and Geoffrey entered naval service on 15 May 1901 and was found to be a promising naval Cadet advancing to Midshipman in December 1903 Assistant Sub- Lieutenant in February 1906 and Sub-Lieutenant on 15 February 1906. He became a Lieutenant on 1 October 1908 and on 1 May 1909 went to Forth for Submarine training. His service record comments on his abilities and "zeal and very good way of working the ship's company who work well under him".
In 1915 and 1916 he was based at Maidstone and attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander on 1 October 1916. His service record also records that he was married on 26 June 1911.

On 28 January 1918 when in command of  HM Submarine E 14 in the Dardanelles,he was ordered to locate the German battle cruiser "Goeber" reported aground. Unable to locate her,he came across another enemy ship which he torpedoed but detonation of the torpedo damaged E14 forcing her to surface. The submarine was damaged by shellfire and he decided to ground the submarine to give his crew chance of safety. He himself remained on deck until killed by a shell.
The London Gazette of 23 May 1919 contains the Admiralty record of the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross. An image of him can be found on the Memorials to valour web page.
The torpedo fired from E14 detonated 11 seconds after it left the submarine's tube and burst open the forehatch of the submarine. Initial shelling from forts on both sides failed to damage the submarine and E14 then dived and sought a way out but "the boat became out of control,and as the air supply was limited was nearly exhausted,Leutenant Commander White decided to run the risk of proceeding on the surface. Heavy fire was immediately opened from both sides,and after running the gauntlet for over half-an-hour,being steered from below,E14 was so badly damaged that Lietanant Commander White turned towards shore in order to give the crew a chance of being saved. He remained on deck the whole time himself until he was killed by a shell."
E14 was a unique submarine in naval history as two Victoria Crosses were awarded to her crew;images of her and details of her wreck location are found  in the Daily Telegraph article.
Lieutenant Commander White was killed om 28 January 1918 age 31.
I look forward to the Bromley commemoration of his gallantry and it seem fitting today to remember his Bromley baptismal anniversary.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Cudham Kent Baptisms and Burials Composite register 1763-1800

Over the years as Downe Online Parish Clerk I have had regular contact from frustrated searchers trying to locate entries in Cudham the adjacent parish to Downe. I soon encountered the anarchy of the preserved record prior to 1800.
I have spent a good deal of time examining the Composite Register volume for the years 1763-1800 to prepare a transcript which will be simple to search. Along the way I have encountered some woeful record keeping.
My transcript of the Banns and Marriages register at Kent Online Parish Clerks is already available online and hints at the problems facing the searcher. It also demonstrates the simple search enabled by the transcriber.
Since the Reverend Thomas Browne Curate at Cudham created anarchy in the marriage register with up to three attempts at spelling a surname and frequent errors (often concealed by an inkblot smear) it was not a surise to discover that the Composite register of baptisms and burials was a challenge.
The granting of permission to microfilm this volume only narrowly given by the Parochial Church Council and lead to Genealogical Society of Utah microfilming. In this volume the collection of images is incomplete (as in another volume of burials). Many of my correspondents had experienced grave difficulty with microfilm as a search method. Before the volume was handled by microfilming operator Bromley Archive had numbered in pencil each sheet in the bound volume. I believe that the string bound volume with loose sheets may have been bound circa 1880. On archive page 5 following two blank sheets the register directory reads:
"The entries begin at this side in 1763 and are written on right hand pages to the middle of the book and there end in 1783. The entries begin at the other side on page 14 and writing on both sides but in some interleaved with burials and end in 1800".
I have been unable to establish where the "page 14" is in the surviving record and this Directory omits to mention the two marriage entries found in the volume. One of these is entered in the Marriage register and included in my transcript but when you reach the rear of the bound sheets and turn the volume over to continue to search for Baptisms a single sheet contains a marriage entry with spouses signatures and four witness signatures. Within the archive numbered page 103 are the following marriage entry and two added private baptisms at Cudham Lodge in 1788 and 1790 of STRINGER children.
On 22 October 1788 the marriage of John MONK and Mary TILDEN both of Cudham parish was conducted by Curate Robert Fegan;both spouses sign the single sheet and the marriage was conducted by licence so no entry is found in the banns book. The four witnesses are Thomas TILDEN Elizabeth HILL Alice MONK  and Ann JEWSON.
It appears to me in examing the whole record that the random mixture of a marriage and private baptisms on a single sheet reflects the casual approach to the record which is predominantly the work of Thomas Browne whose longevity as a rural curate does not indicate stellar performance as part of his career in the parish. The record includes entries omitted by him (mentioned by name) presumably to reflect to the compiler of the Bishop's Transcript who was at fault. It is also clear that he was responsible for many surname variant spellings and errors perhaps reflecting poor penmanship. The supply of quills and the poor quality ink used in Cudham poses an additional problem as several entries are so faint as to be barely legible although the sheets have not needed paper conservation in their decades in archival conservation. I included a warning about his Marriage register entries which have been found to err greatly as to surname spellings and this volume also reflects this problem.
The burial entries indicate that the Curate was responsible for the parish Workhouse inmates at Leaves Green and private baptisms at Aperfield Cudham Lodge and the farms at the extremities of the seven mile long parish. The Workhouse burials occur in the 1780's and this appears to date the opening of the parish workhouse It is clear that the record was not immediately entered as entires for different years appear and the sheets are not in chronological sequence in the binding. The two hands for some years and separation of entires suggest that vicar and curate kept separate sheets.
I would caution any searcher for family that the surviving and conserved record may therefore be incomplete and inaccurate for names and dates because there are entries which revert to use of the Gregorian calendar month which seem implausible within content on an individual page.
I hope that the many hours spent sifting this record will emulate the Banns and Marriage transcript in simple search when the final preparation of data for online parish publication by Kent Online Parish Clerks and that searchers will have a simpler experience.
In responding to correspondence an average look up in this record has taken up to an hour to locate an entry when a year of birth was known.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Day in the Bromley Union Workhouse

"And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that truly be said of us,and all of us." -Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

Any consideration of Christmas Day in the Workhouse of Bromley Union must consider the example of Charles William Gedney a Union Guardian.
In 1927 he died pacefully in his sleep in early January shortly after he had organised his 57th year of Christmas Day celebrations for the inmates of the Workhouse.
This year round activity involved securing donations from the public of the parishes of The Union to make the hundreds of men women and children unfortunate enough to be inmates at Christmas feel something of Christmas.
The staff of the Workhouse and their families were also recruited to the cause and donations of decorations and large amounts of evergreens from various estates in the district were put to use to decorate the chapel, wards of the Infirmary and day rooms throughout the site. The dining hall was heavily decorated throughout the beamed ceiling.
Gedney ensured toys for each child which he distributed whilst the men would be offered very acceptable tobacco and the women packets of sugar and tea.
Most Workhouses received such gifts but Bromley is exceptional in that one Guardian took responsibility for so many decades. His sons had grown up spending their Christmas Day as a family giving their time to those in need and in support of their father's work.
Christmas Dinner was nearly always reported in local newspapers and consisted of roast beef and roast pork, mutton and plum pudding. Alcohol was not provided but Mister Gedney always secured mineral water donated by a local company.
In the evening musical and other entertainments were organised with visitor musicians and singers to entertain.
Mister Gedney usually received a traditional vote of thanks from The Master of the Workhouse and would make a short speech of thanks. Occasionally in some years he prevailed upon the Chair of the Board of Guardians to appear.
In 1908 he was able to make a speech and appreciate the introduction of old age pensions. Initially the pension of five shillings a week from 1 January 1909 was not available to those in receipt of poor law relief. Mister Gedney suggested that were 5 shillings a week available to relatives many elderly residents of the Workhouse over 70 years of age would find home with family members.(From 1 January 1911 those over 70 years of age in receipt of Poor Law Relief  were adopted into the scheme and Act of 1908).
Bromley Union had prior to this had a larger than average number of inmates over 70 and had a reputation of an enlarged Infirmary and improved accommodation for children from 1909. Gedney's prediction proved accurate as the number of people over 70 fell throughout the remainder of his years as a Guardian.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Charles William Gedney Part II Poor Law Guardian

Gedney was as I described in part I of this blog a pungent and outspoken critic of the decision by Bromley Union's Poor Law Guardians to exclude journalists from Board meetings held at the Union Workhouse. This coupled with criticism of the diet offered to inmates which had featured prominently in a General Election  lead Gedney to submit his name for election as a Guardian. His first efforts were unsuccessful but as he developed criticism of the way children were housed with adults in the Workhouse and the Guardians lack of response to Local Government initiatives to board such children out in foster homes over a 15 year period he was duly elected by Bromley Parish as a Guardian.
From the outset this forward thinking amiable man was to devote his service to the lot of destitute women and children in particular.
He was outraged by the Workhouse education of children and argued for attendance at local Board schools; later when the Farnborough School Board expanded the school the Board were to offer places at the school for children from the nearby Workhouse on condition that they did not "wear Workhouse habit" to school.
His concern for education generally lead to his election to the Bromley School Board and he and Miss Hepple were the only two members to remain until Bromley became a Council and an Education Committee assumed responsibilty. The popularity of these two members enabled their re-election all other original members were ejected due to delay in securing land for much needed schools championed by both successful candidates.
In 1885 he succeeded in establishing a Boarding Out Committee  for "deserted and and orphaned children" and as the Boarding Out Committe minutes record he successfully placed 36 children in "cottage homes" and local Board Schools in that year. Later he was to dramaticllay increase the number of eligible children to enter foster homes.
From the outset he placed heavy emphasis on after care and particular emphasis on training girls and guardianship of these young women some time after they ceased to "on the books" of the Guardians. In the 1920's obituarists were to comment on his willingness to accommodate in his own home those whose service had ended through no fault of their own.
Throughout the two volumes of Boarding Out Committe minutes there are examples of his intervention in case of sudden critical illness to transport a child to London for treatment and report to Committee the outcome of his intervention. he was also available to assit in removal of children from unsuitable foster parents.
The 1887 movement in Bromley to recruit and elect women Guardians was supported as he felt that the success of Boarding Out Children should increase and in other unions Ladies Boarding Out Committees were succeeding. In 1890 Bromley Union had Isabella Frances Akers elected. After her first remarks to the Guardians Gedney was somewhat ruffled by criticism of the conditions for women and children but characteristically his criticism of her remarks and her apology if she had offended Board members was met with amiable support. Indeed as Miss Akers introduced reforms to the Union she was fully supported and soon more parishes elected Women guardians in some cases unopposed. After the tragic death of Miss Akers her work was continued by a  highly effective group of women guardians and fostering in the rapid expansion of Bromley Union's population was well organised to support those leaving foster care.
The 14 year old Charles William Gedney's naval career and injury in active service overseas was perhaps the influence that ensured that Naval Training ships and Army recruitment was pursued by the Union's children and also provided funding for accommodation for young female servants out of situations by supporting the Bromley Servants House. The injured naval midshipman had come home to take up a new career and he pursued every opportunity for young men and women to emigrate to Canada through numerous Emigration Socities and ensured that the Guardians had Emigration Committee and funding to assist where necessary.
It is difficult to write about Bromley Poor Law Union Workhouse in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and first quarter of the twentieth century without appreciating his great contribution.
He was a mover in developing the Union Workhouse accommodation in general but especially separate housing for Boys and Girls in houses along Wellbrook Road,removing children entirely from the adult accommodation. He also proposed improved Infirmary accommodation in added wings and eventual improvement to casuals accommodation and saniation for women. He was pragmatic enough to point out the unsuitability of requiring casuals to perform "the stone test" a fitness to work test by breaking stone as the 1830's Workhouse housed casuals in cells unlike other Workhouses.
Nowadays we grumble about snowfall inconveniencing travel; but in the Victorian era frost and snow in the first three months of each year stopped farm workers and those in the building industry from working and many local families became destitute. Gedney's concern to improve the Workhouse diet had lead to a Workhouse Bakery (and incidentally apprenticeships for those boarded out). It became possible for the bakery to not only feed inmates but to offer relief in seasonal hardship. The Relieving Officers worked closely with the local government to open up labour yards at Beckenham and Waldo Road Bromley and Gedney would on these occasions visit the men during their lunch break.
When proposals to reform Workhouses were tabled Gedney referred to Locksbottom as being a House for the elderly and sick and was able to demonstrate this by numbers of able bodied poor being lower than comparable Unions whilst the Infirmary was larger.
It was also his activity alone to organise local efforts year round to support the annual "Workhouse Holiday" each August or September from 1880 onwards. Through the generosity of local landowners and businesses offering transport all inmates of the Workhouse would be taken for a day for lunch and tea. Sir John Lubbock became the regular host at High Elms of 200-300 men women and children and many Bromley businesses which maintained vehicles would transport them there. Mister Gedney would always speak and offer a vote of thanks to the host and year round would ensure that tableware seating .
As we will see in another blog Christmas Day in the Workhouse at Locksbottom became inseperable from the Gedney family.
Charles William Gedney died on 7 January 1927 peacefully in his sleep days after organising his 57th annual Christmas Day for the Workhouse which he always referred to as the "grim grey Great House" but the Workhouse was a much more effective organisation for his long service and zealous efforts to improve the lives of those who were admitted.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Charles William Gedney:Part I Journalist and Author

Charles William Gedney was born at Aldwick Sussex and educated a private school. At the age of 14 he became a naval cadet and served with distinction as a Midshipman under the captaincy of Captain William Peel V C aboard HMS Shannon 1855 when he formed part of the  naval brigade at the relief of Lucknow dragging guns overland to defend and fortify the garrison under siege.
He also sailed up the Yangtze River in 1857 when he was one of 46 injured sailors in the Battle of Canton (1857). This injury ended his career at sea and he returned home to take up journalism working for two years as journalist on the Daily News.
In 1865 he arrived in Bromley and began to publish the "The Bromley Telegraph" printed at 25 Market Square, a house at the south east corner of Market Square which Horsbrugh describes as:
"a secluded house with an ample forecourt containing lime trees and enclosed by wooden railings". It had in the 1801 census of Bromley been home to Edward Broad and subsequently occupied by Miss Anne Broad "a very select dressmaker,many of the county families from the surrounding neighbourhood being her patrons."
Gedney had a printing office on the ground floor which is sometimes referred to as "Telegraph" Printing Works Bromley.
Gedney became famous for his "highly seasoned" local reading which under his pseudonym "Idler in Local Gossip" criticised the way that local affairs were organised. This pungent outspoken critical attitude to authority's was to lead him to defend 20 actions against him in the High Court. He later joked that he lost only two which " I should have won and won one which I should have lost".
Despite this reputation locally described by Horsbrugh on his arrival in 1881 in Bromley as "a dangerous iconoclast and doubtless would have been dubbed a Bolshevist had that appellation existed" Horsbrugh became a personal friend and  described  a kind and jovial disposition encouraging others to enter journalism. He was somewhat ahead of his time in that those in public positions were unaccustomed to criticism.
He was a snooker player at The Liberal Club in Bromley and a supporter of Liberal politics in the town.
He was angered by the Local Board of Guardians refusal to admit journalists to meetings at the Workhouse and was also dissatisfied by the diet of inmates at what he referred to as The "grim and grey Great House".
In Part II I will pursue his action against the manner in which the Workhouse was being run.
In 1896 Gedney printed and published
This publication was successful and shows Gedney at leisure as a Fly Fisherman travelling to Ireland Scotland and Wales by train to enjoy his sport. The book is still read in various formats available online.
For many years he wrote the "Circular Notes "column in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.
In 1902 he sold his printing business to the proprietors of the Bromley Chronicle and for ten years from 1902-1912 the BromleyTelegraph and Chronicle was published.
After retirement he cared for his wife Annie during a lengthy illness until her death at their Glebe Road home on 17 October 1906. She was buried at the London Road Cemetery on 22 October 1906 when Charles was accompanied by his three sons at the funeral described by The Bromley Record obituary.
As we will see in Part II his kind and jovial disposition was to bless many lives throughout his long years of public service.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Bromley Mystery of an Abandoned Baby

The human condition changes little no matter which  century and abandoning children has an inherent mystery.
As I have researched the population of children boarded out from the Bromley Kent Poor Law Union from 1885 onwards there is only one child whose name and circumstances remain a mystery to me.
On the evening of the 20 March 1895 a male baby about six months old was abandoned in the porch of Pulham House Palace Grove the household of Mister A. Scott.
Elinda Potter a servant employed by Mister Scott thought she heard a baby crying in the front of the house and when she opened the door she found a small bundle containing the baby a feeding bottle and an attached note.The child had been carefully wrapped in a maroon covering.
The handwritten note said:
"Dear Kind People
Will you be so kind as to give this little baby a night's shelter as he is motherless,fatherless and there is no one to take him. I have done the best I could for the little lamb while i had him but I am almost destitute myself. Would you be so kind as to send him to the Swanley Home for little boys;and do not send him to the Union.it was his mother's wish for him to go to a Home".
The police were called and Doctor Ilott in his role as Divisional Surgeon was called to examine the child who was found to be healthy. He advised the police to remove the child to The Workhouse.
The Bromley Record account in its April edition records this detail and says the child was taken to the Workhouse and that the police were making "every inquiry" into the matter.
What is equally mysterious is that there is no record of admission to the Workhouse for a male baby estimated to be six months of age in the Porter's admission and discharge register,
It would in my experience be most unusual for no record to be kept-on the contrary one of the first issues confronting the Master and Board of Guardians would be to establish who the parents were and their circumstances.
The Boarding Out Commitee meeting on 5 April records that two foundling chargeable to the Union are in the Workhouse and the Committee recommends to the Guardians that a reward for the apprehension of the parents should be offered. It is not possible to identify these two children by name or subsequent reference to boarded out children in either the discharge entries or Boarding Out minutes or the two volumes of Secretary's register which provides detailed biography of the boarded out chidren and their after-care as well as years of birth and foster parents.
There is no evidence of the the Guardians placing a male child in a childrens home which would match these circumstances or reference to the removal of a child by a parent.
In most cases of abandonment the Union record sources are thorough  and one or two foster parents (usually with nursing backgrounds) are foster parents to small babies and every effort is made to ensure that small children are not admitted to the House. At this time the Ladies Committee were responsible for the placement of children and reported quarterly to the Board of Guardians so that detailed records are available.
The note attached to the baby refers to the Farningham Home for Little Boys at Horton Kirby which would not have accepted a baby. The Farningham Home for Little Boys is used by Bromley Union for boys up to 10 years of age often those who are difficult to maintain in foster care. Whether this child died or remained for some years in the Workhouse due to illness or disability is not known.
 © Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Monday, 31 October 2016

Miss Isabella Frances Akers of Warren Wood Hayes

The Church of Saint Mary The Virgin Hayes contains a black and white marble pavement in the sanctuary and an oak rail in memory of Mrs Frances Whitmore and her daughter Isabella. The work was donated by Aretas Akers Douglas and his sister Mrs Eleanor Mary Norman as a memorial to their mother and sister and were to a design by Thomas Jackson M.A. carried out in 1904/5.
Isabella and her mother are buried side by side in Hayes Churchyard to the right hand side of the Hambro family memorial. Mrs Frances Whitmore died in 1900 and as we will see Miss Isabella Frances Akers died in 1903.
Aretas Akers had married Frances Maria Brandram and the couple had raised their family as he served as a clergyman. Isabella was born on 15 May 1853  but was to become an orphan at the age of 3. Her father Aretas Akers had an interesting family history;the family in the eighteenth century had considerable land and slaves in the West Indies and on the abolition of slavery was compensated by the British Government. Isabella's inheritance was invested wisely on her behalf she held among other shares in the Great Western Railway and is designated with her mother in the census as of independent means.
Their son Aretas Akers who was born at West Malling in October 1851 where his father was rector later changed his name to Akers-Douglas and in 1880 was elected to Parliament. In 1902 he became Home Secretary and later was created Viscount Chilston and had inherited Chilston Park, The change of his name was in accordance with the terms of a family will which provided his inheritance see Wikipedia 1st Viscount Chilston.
Eleanor Mary Akers married Edward Norman in 1875 two years after her mother who had remarried and been widowed for a second time had taken a lease on Warren Wood Hayes Common in September 1873.
I am grateful for the generous assistance of Jean Wilson co-author with the late Trevor Woolman of Hayes: A History of a Kent Village Volume I and her detailed research on the house. The confusion between Warren Wood and the neighbouring house which came to be known as The Warren and still stands today as part of the Metropolitan Police estate is obvious as the census enumerator in the 1881 refers to the House it's lodge stables housing as The Warren whereas in 1891 the enumerator refer's to Mrs Whitmore's Gardeners Cottage and the house as part of Hayes Common. The houshold employed in 1881 a coachman and a gardener and his family as well as domestic servants. In the 1891 census entry a butler cook and four other domestic servants are employed. The house no longer exists but was occupied after 1903.
Isabella Frances Akers was the first elected woman to serve as a Guardian for Bromley Poor Law Union. She was to fulfil her commitment to "serve the women children and disabled of the Union" throughout her years as a Board Guardian and it was typical of her commitment to serve that she died tragically entering the Workhouse to attend a Board Meeting in 1903.
We can with a twenty first century perspective only imagine what the only woman elected to serve on a Poor Law Union Board experienced in an all male Board room. Her ability as a member earned unanimous approval for her proposals and her commitment to orphans and the deserted children of the Union Workhouse emerges most strongly from the pages of Committee minutes. She was the Guardian to join the Boarding Out Committee 5 years after the all male Committee had begun to recruit foster parents in Bromley.
Isabella had worked with the matron of the Workhouse to draw up an inventory of clothing for boys and girls and her attention to the provision of winter capes for boys and an ulster caped winter coat for girls which could be made by women in the Workhouse work room to patterns (by Paton and Baldwin) was the beginning of her work to research formally propose and implement a Committee of Lady Visitors which I have previously written about.  She was to work with the Boarding Out and Cottage Training Homes Association as well as her personal visits to foster parents and children in their care and assisting Charles Gedney who chaired the Boarding Out Commitee in his efforts to obtain urgent admissions to hospitals in London or urgent alternative foster homes on the death or illness of their foster mother.
There are indications that her health had required her to go away for three months on health grounds in her formal notice of absence contained in Commitee minutes but no one at the Union was prepared for the tragedy of her death. At the age of 49 she was in April of 1903 accustomed to travelling by tricycle to meetings at the Union Workhouse. In 1901 the most popular ladies tricycle was the Rudge-Whitworth which replaced their earlier models with a "modern" front brake to replace the earlier fixed wheel brake. I am grateful to the Old Bike Museum for their help. On the23 April 1903 Isabella Akers had ridden from her home at Warren Wood to the Union Workhouse. Without gearing the journey which has several inclines would have been challenging at  Farnborough Common. The Bromley Record obituary May 1903 reports that she had pushed her tricycle up the incline at Farnborough Common remounting at the top and rode up to the lodge of the Workhouse where she fell from her tricycle and died when her heart failed. The Obituary further records that she was unable to speak and great shock was felt by all at the loss of a well respected woman.
On 23 April 1903 at Hayes Church the Rector began the service which was then conducted by a bishop. Isabella was buried next to her mother in Hayes Churchyard.

© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016